I’ve never done a skincare routine post on this site because my routine usually changes from day to day as my mood and skin needs vary. The past couple of months, due to work, travel, and generally not having enough hours in the day my routine has become extremely repetitive and minimalist (for me), which I think is worth talking about for a few reasons.
This is what I’ve been using:
Disclaimer: All products were purchased by me. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, Yesstyle, and Sephora. Purchasing an item through an affiliate link does not add any cost to the customer but does help support this site’s upkeep.
1st Cleanse: Shu Uemura Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil
I bought this for the limited edition Super Mario bottle and because lots of people love this oil. This oil removes make-up thoroughly and quickly, rinses adequately, and doesn’t dry out my skin. Not my favorite cleansing oil and not one I would repurchase (I prefer Muji Sensitive Skin, Fancl Mild, and Astalift, all of which are cheaper) but it gets the job done without breaking me out or drying out my skin.
Available on Shu Uemura and Yesstyle for ~$40. Super Mario LE version is sold out on Shu Uemura but available on Yesstyle (but much pricier).
2nd Cleanse: Stratia Velvet Cleansing Milk
This is the gentlest cleanser I’ve ever used – even more gentle than Cerave Hydrating Cleanser – but with better cleansing power. This is the best second cleanser (or morning cleanser) I’ve ever come across for dry or irritated skin and the only one I reach for when my skin is being difficult.
Available on Stratia.
Mineral water mists are a recent obsession. No, I don’t think mineral water does anything particularly special for skin and yes, I am aware there are other mist products out there that contain hydrators, antioxidants, botanical extracts, and all sorts of lovely ingredients but the only mist I want to use is the Evian Mineral Water Spray.
A pressurized mist canister is a totally different animal than your typical spray trigger mists. It releases a cloud of fine water droplets that distributes evenly on my skin, imparting a generous amount of hydration without making my skin feel too wet. Because it is just water, it does not add any stickiness or heaviness to my routine and should it drip into my eyes (as mists like to do) it does not cause any stinging.
Functionally, these mineral mists allow me to add hydration in between skincare steps and because the water helps things absorb, build more layers of skincare in each routine. I’m a big fan of these mineral mists and of the ones I’ve tried (which are Avene, Vicky, and Evian), Evian’s achieves the best water droplet size and spray ratio.
Evian mist available on Amazon and Sephora.
Serums and Serum-Type Products
Holy Snails Drunk Shark Sauce
I’m a fiend for all things sake and this definitely fits the bill. I like this because it layers well with other products and provides a boost in hydration. Sadly, I do not notice brightening effects from this serum as many others do.
Available on Holy Snails.
Skin Biology Super GHK Copper Serum
Copper peptides have joined my personal short list of power player ingredients (which include retinoids and l’ascorbic acid) that have made pronounced improvements to my skin’s baseline condition. NIOD CAIS is my copper peptide of choice but Deciem was out of stock when I ran out so I started using this Skin Biology serum instead. It is slightly cheaper and performs identically, but it has a nursing-home-esque fragrance that I find incredibly off putting. The pump also sucks, gets clogged, and results in a lot of product waste so this is not something I would order again as long as I can get CAIS, but to me it does confirm that my skin loves copper peptides. Since I started using CAIS and this serum in my routine, I have noticed my skin recovers from breakouts, dehydration, and irritation much faster and my skin texture looks markedly better.
Available on Reverse Skin Aging.
Pestle & Mortar Superstar
This is the most expensive item in my routine and one I have tried repeatedly to find a replacement for but have not been able to. The retinoid it contains is Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, an ultra gentle retinoid ester also used in Sunday Riley’s Luna and The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion. On top of this fancy retinoid, it also contains a gorgeous blend of oils including grape seed, jojoba, and avocado oil. These are not light oils, yet this blend sinks into my dry skin like a dream. I like to apply this immediately after cleansing so it’s as close to my skin as possible. After 5-10 minutes, I mist lightly over this oil, pat the mist into my skin, and then do the rest of my routine. I find this product to not only be effective in acne prevention (it clears up congested skin and prevents future breakouts) without causing any irritation, but I also wake up with soft, glowing skin the morning. During colder months, I have been using this as my sole retinoid as Curology causes more dryness and irritation than I care to deal with at the moment.
Available on Pestle & Mortar.
The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%
This serum has a feels-oily-but-isn’t-oily texture that is not pleasant by itself but easy to get around by mixing a few drops to a lotion (usually the Hada Labo premium) or to another, more fluid serum. I’m not entirely sure what resveratrol does, but I have noticed my skin looks smoother since I have started using this, so I keep it in rotation.
Available on The Ordinary.
Hada Labo Premium Lotion
The MVP of my skincare routine. Where has this lotion been all my life? One layer of this does more than 3 layers of any other hydrating skincare product I’ve tried. I use this everywhere – on my skin, in my hair (add a few drops to hair conditioner and thank me later), on my body, on my lips. If you can tolerate low molecular weight and hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid (not everyone can), give this a try. For my skin it has literally been a game changer.
Available on Amazon.
Stratia Liquid Gold
The thin-to-thick rule for skincare application doesn’t really cut it for me during winter. What I like to do instead is to alternate light, hydrating layers and richer, oilier layers. Liquid Gold works brilliantly for this technique because it is richer than its texture would suggest. On particularly cold, dry, or windy days, I apply hydrating toner, followed by Liquid Gold, and then repeat until my skin feels un-dehydrated. Guaranteed to keep flaky, dry skin at bay.
Available on Stratia.
Skin Biology CELES
I am a big fan of face oils and this is my current favorite and go-to. This is squalane (olive derived) with cholesterol esters. It has the same lightness of squalane but I find it to be so much more effective at preventing dehydration and softening skin.
Available on Reverse Skin Aging Store.
Banila Co. Miss Flower & Mr. Honey Cream
I am really into fancy vaseline at the moment and this is probably the fanciest vaseline cream ever made. It also smells like honey and happiness. Unfortunately, it seems to have been discontinued. I have a few backups but in the meantime am trying to search for an alternative.
Hada Labo Premium Gyokujyun Premium Hyaluronic Acid Petroleum Jelly
More fancy vaseline! AI use this on my lips and on any dry, flakey patches I might have around my nose and mouth. No other lip balm has been working this season.
Available on Amazon.
Mommy! UV Mild Gel SPF 33 PA+++
I reviewed the former version of this sunscreen awhile back but like the new version even better. It’s less shiny and sinks in a bit faster but is still nicely moisturizing and not drying. For me, SPF 33 and PA+++ is perfectly adequate for winter.
Available on Amazon.
Also, as mentioned earlier having a consistent and minimalist (for me) skincare routine for the past 3 months has been an interesting experiment, even if it wasn’t voluntary. Here are some general thoughts:
- It’s so obvious what products do the heavy lifting when you use the same things day in and day out. I have come to appreciate certain products (ie Pestle & Mortar Superstar, Hada Labo Premium lotion, CAIS NIOD/Skin Biology Super GHK Copper Serum) way more than I previously did
- I have been less tempted to buy new things. In the past 3 months, 90% of the skincare and beauty products I have bought have been repurchases. My wishlists of things I want to try are just as long, but buying new things feels like a much bigger commitment than it once did because I can’t incorporate as many things into my skincare rotation
- My skin does not look as good as when I made use of my entire skincare wardrobe. The 13-ish products here simply can’t account for every skin issue/condition/variation that I have day to day and it shows. I would say on a good skin day, my skin looks about 85% as good as (I feel) it should.
- The overall joy I get from doing my skincare routine has gone down. Minimalism and uniforms are all the rage these days but personally I would rather suffer the occasional decision fatigue from having too many options than the absolute lack of spontaneity and variety in having a repetitive and purely functional routine